Prepare For The Long Expected (And Dreaded) Penguin Update

google penguin updateBack in March, Matt Cutts warned SEOs to expect a new Penguin algorithm update later this year. Dubbed “Penguin 2.0,” this update is expected to be a massive change for the SEO industry. The original Penguin algorithm was released in April 2012 and caused widespread destruction among the SEO community, as many sites suffered harsh penalties and consequently dropped in the rankings. Barry Schwartz reports that after a year, only 9% of sites that were hit with a Penguin penalty have managed a full recovery. That’s a dangerous algorithm!

There are many expectations and theories within the SEO community of what this will mean for SEO campaigns, particularly in relation to link building. Although we are still waiting for this “next generation” of the Penguin algorithm, SEOs can make informed guesses about what it’s going to look like based on past algorithmic updates. Essentially, SEOs expect Penguin 2.0 to expand Google’s definition of spam in a way that more effectively targets black-hat SEO practices.

It’s All About Links

Although you should be following this rule anyway, it’s worth mentioning: stop using any black-hat SEO practices! Even if you’ve made it this far without suffering a penalty from Google, the best way to prepare for the Penguin update is to avoid keyword stuffing, get rid of unnatural links, and make sure you don’t have any duplicate content. Penguin is one of Google’s greatest weapons against sites that ignore Google’s guidelines, so anyone using black-hat tactics is in for trouble.

That being said, the main purpose of Penguin is to be a link quality filter, so you can be positive that the update will continue Google’s war on spammy links. Penguin punishes over-optimization in order to achieve Google’s goal of displaying only the highest quality pages near the top of the rankings. At this point, Google has become very familiar with the patterns that indicate bad links, which are a sure sign of over-optimization.

Time For Some Spring Cleaning

With that in mind, now is the time to clean up your link profile! Penguin 2.0 is undoubtedly going to target any kind of link schemes that generate low quality or unnatural links. This includes advertorial spam or any sort of plan that involves paid links. Link networks are a definite no-no at this point. I’m sure none of this is all that surprising to you, but if you’re holding on to any vestiges of these pre-Panda and pre-Penguin practices, it’s time to get rid of them!

There are certain link patterns that are likely to tip off the forthcoming Penguin update as well. For instance, link velocity is an indicator of the health of your link profile – a sudden spike in links looks suspicious. Google is also looking for link trust, which means that you want to focus on links in good link neighborhoods as opposed to bad link neighborhoods. In order to avoid any of these problems, focus on editorial links and promotional links.

Penguin 2.0 is also expected to create improvements in authority indicators. We already know that Google is interested in authorship and relevance, but this new algorithm will also be likely to emphasize the importance of social signals as a part of authority.

To sum it up, it seems to me that the best way to prepare for Penguin 2.0 is to proactively clean up your backlinks and start producing awesome content that establishes your authority. What do you think?

How are you preparing for the next Penguin update?

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Sarah Beth

Sarah Beth Wiltse earned her BA in English at Boston University. Though she currently lives in Dallas, TX, she spent a year in Paris, France after college, cultivating her love of the French language and a passion for travelling. She has spent much of her life developing her skills in the arts, primarily as a ballerina, violinist, and pianist - and now, a writer! Follow her on Twitter!

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